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IT has been said of Coleridge that he wrote but little poetry of
the highest order of excellence, but that that little should be
"bound in gold* The like has been said of Bernhard Riemann, the
mathematical fruits of whose all too brief summer fill only one
octavo volume. It may also be truly said of Riemann that he
touched nothing that he did not hi some measure revolutionize.
One of the most original mathematicians of modern times,
Riemann unfortunately inherited a poor constitution, and he
died before he had reaped a tithe of the golden harvests in his
fertile mind. Had he been born a century later than he was,
medical science could probably have leased him twenty or thirty
more years of life, and mathematics would not now be waiting
for his successor.
Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann, the son of a Lutheran
pastor, and the second of six children (two boys, four girls), was
born in the little village of Breselenz, in Hanover, Germany, oa
17 September 1826. His father had fought in the Napoleonic
wars, and on settling down to a less barbarous mode of living
had married Charlotte Ebell, daughter of a court councillor.
Hanover in 1826 was not exactly prosperous, and the circum-
stances of an obscure country parson with a wife and six chil-
dren to feed and clothe were far from affluent. It is claimed by
some biographers, apparently with justice, that the frail health
and early deaths of most of the Reimann children were the
result of under-nourishment in their youth and were not due to
poor stamina. The mother also died before her children were
In spite of poverty the home life was happy, and Riemann
always retained the warmest affection - and homesickness,